Introduction

The rich heritage of the partnerships among Carson City, Storey County and University of Nevada, Reno Extension (Extension) spans more than 100 years. Conducting new research about whole grains from nutrition experts, guiding residents on how to raise produce for food in the Carson City Community Garden, and teaching youth life and leadership skills through 4-H Youth Development Programs are just three of the numerous contributions Extension provides in research, education and outreach to increase the quality of life of residents, businesses and communities.

The Extension office for Carson City and Storey County is currently located in Carson City, a consolidated municipality with a rich and colorful frontier heritage. Named after the explorer Kit Carson, the city was selected as the state’s capital at the 1864 Nevada constitutional convention. In 2019, Carson City limits covered 147.5 square miles (Carson City Assessor’s Office, 2020) which made it the fourth largest city in the state in terms of area. Downtown Carson City lies in Eagle Valley, which is surrounded by three mountain ranges−the Carson Range to the west, the Virginia Range to the east and the Pine Nut Range to the southeast. Snow Valley Peak, which rises 9,214 feet in the Carson Range, is the highest point in the city. The city limits border Lake Tahoe to the west, and the Carson River runs through the city. With a population of approximately 56,000, Carson City's economy is based first upon state and local government, then retail trade and manufacturing. The city is known for its art, cultural activities, local community fair, historic buildings and a variety of museums.

Storey County is located just northeast of Carson City, Nevada and southeast of Reno, Nevada, encompassing 264.4 square miles (Storey County Assessor’s Office, 2020). Its estimated population is currently 4,020 people (U.S. Census, 2019). The county was established in 1861, being named for Captain Edward Farris Storey, who was killed during the Pyramid Lake War in 1860. At that time, Storey County was recognized as the most populated county in Nevada. Virginia City (VC) is the county seat, and was once known as the “Richest Place on Earth.” VC, as it’s named locally, is now home to approximately 855 residents (U.S. Census, 2018). Lockwood, Mark Twain and the VC Highlands are three other important communities with many residents working in the county’s diversified industries, including manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, trade, transportation, and utilities. Located in the northeastern corner of Storey County is one of the nation’s largest industrial complexes that includes companies such as Tesla, Wal-Mart, eBay, Switch, PetSmart, Google, Chewy.com and more than 115 other businesses of varying sizes. Some entities assessible from USA Parkway (State Route 439), a primary transportation route, operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Storey County provides public safety services not only to its local residents, but also to a workforce made up of more than 25,000 workers traveling from its own and surrounding communities as far away as Fallon to the east, Dayton and Silver Springs to the south, and Truckee, California, on the west (Thompson, 2020).

Purpose

Extension, a unit within the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, is charged with providing educational programming to residents living in all Nevada counties. Programs are developed and related collaborations built to address issues of importance to citizens identified through comprehensive needs assessments conducted by Extension faculty, specialists and staff members. While the majority of these professionals work directly for the University, they work and live within the counties and communities they serve, with offices encompassing at least one of the state’s 17 counties. To guide and assist prioritization of Extension’s programming, Nevada’s legislators created Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 549.010 that identified six topic areas for educational efforts: agriculture, community development, health and nutrition, horticulture, natural resources, and personal and family development.

Extension educators are responsible for conducting needs assessments periodically in order to guide development, delivery and evaluation of research-based educational programs to address issues of greatest concern to local residents. The assessments are to be conducted within two years of assuming a position in their geographic area(s) of responsibility. Programs developed through this process often encompass more than one program area and have implications throughout the region and the state. In addition, many Extension programs developed in Nevada have been recognized for their national and international impacts.

Study Design and Report Contents

To gain an in-depth understanding of the current programmatic needs of Carson City and Storey County, this study was carried out using convergent parallel design, a mixed-methods approach (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2011). This research process can be symbolized as qualitative and quantitative (QUAL+QUAN; Morse, 1991). The researcher concurrently gathered quantitative and qualitative information during the same stage of the research process, weighing the methods equally, analyzing the data from the two facets independently, and together interpreting the results. Proactive triangulation of the themes evident contextually, in the survey outcomes and through interview transcription analysis, resulted in the identification of valid and corroborated findings. Results of this work contained actions and programs for community consideration and future Extension programs.

This mixed-methods study was conducted by Lisa K. Taylor, Ph.D. based on initial research conducted by Lindsay Chichester, Ph.D., who was the preceding Carson City and Storey County Extension Educator until fall of 2018. Data collection occurred January 24, 2019 through June 19, 2019, using a purposeful method of sampling of the residents and leaders living in Carson City and Storey County, thus precluding the identification of a response rate. During each interview, each participant was asked to identify other participants who the author should interview, and each participant was encouraged to email the link to coworkers and other acquaintances.

Location-specific research reports, outcomes from previous community surveys, and state and regional government planning documents were the foundation for the 77 issues jointly defined for Carson City, Storey County and Douglas County and included for consideration by all study participants. Significant Carson City and Storey County research reviewed in preparation for this study included a variety of sources such as the Carson City and Storey County Extension Community Needs Assessment Analysis and Reports (Skelly & Skelly, 2003; Skelly & Christiansen, 2007); Nevada Kids Count Data Report 2017 (Danneshvary, Miller, Rathnasekara & Prada, 2017) and Carson City Community Health Needs Assessment 2017 (Carson City Department of Health and Human Services, 2017), among others.

This report is a summary of the purpose, process and identification of needs resulting from the collection and analysis of perceptions identified by Carson City and Storey County residents via an online survey and key informant interviews conducted in the first six months of 2019. Chapter 1 provides general information about Carson City and Storey County; the purpose of the study; study design; and responsibilities identified to guide Extension research, education and outreach activities. Chapter 2 provides the methods and results of surveying citizens through an online questionnaire using descriptions, charts and quotations for each of Extension’s six program areas. Then, an explanation of the process and the outcomes of the study’s interviews of 28 key informants from Carson City and Storey County are described in Chapter 3. A summary of findings, priorities, limitations, conclusions and recommendations for practical next steps and future research opportunities are presented in Chapter 4.

For the complete report, use the link below to download the PDF version.

Taylor, L. K., Chichester, L. M., Evans, W. P., & Russell, K. N. 2020, Carson City and Storey County Needs Assessment and Environmental Scan 2019, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, Special Publication

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